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To change, to make or become different. Alter or replace, transform, or convert. A time for us all to try something new! Our environments are changing but that doesn’t mean we don’t still have control of our spaces…
More than ever before our world has changed. Almost everything around our children has changed. That can be unsettling or if we consider it and think of using it in a positive way it may make our practice better than before. Only time will tell.

Recent changes I have made

I certainly have tried something new recently. Webinars! Finding myself in the middle of the night talking at a computer screen to 2,500 teachers in Canada was a new journey for me. I continue to develop and deliver them now, but it is weird and not so wonderful sharing my space without you all as real delegates. Hopefully soon we will be able to get together and share pedagogical conversations and become active, collaborative, and productive.
Nonetheless, change can be a great thing! There are so many aspects of change to consider in our practice…What changes to the play will you make? Will you change a space, a technique, will you adapt or add to your pedagogical toolkit?

Changing your environments

Change is not easy for all children, so when we are implementing changes we must be mindful of how our children may react and deal with them. On the other hand, some children may be excited for change and new ways to play. One thing that can help the children to make a transition is to include them in the process of change where possible. Perhaps you would like to make changes to your home corner, maybe you can gather the children together and discuss the changes with them first, consider their suggestions and have them help to make the changes.

Changing your practice

As we learn and grow in our practice, some ways that we do things are bound to change. With more knowledge, we will learn ways to better our discussions, interactions, and practice. That doesn’t mean we have to change everything once we learn something new but building on top of the foundations of learning that we already have can lead to exciting changes! What theory has inspired you lately?
I would recommend diving deeply into Realising the Ambition, a new Scottish document, which I love but will use it all over the world not just at home. Explore the world of Guy Claxton, look at Conscious Creativity by Philippa Stanton (if you haven’t already) for some new inspiration…

Changing your play

Change doesn’t have to be out with the old, but it can mean in with the new! It’s always a great time to get excited about new activities and ways to play. As Adventurers, you may be used to thinking outside the box and this is an opportunity to keep doing so. Here are some prompts to get you started:
How can I reinvent an activity that encourages dramatic play?
Are my children still excited about their mathematical skills building?
Do my environments inspire, excite and encourage play of all kinds?
What is missing from my space that I can introduce in a new way?

The only way forward is embracing the new! Embrace the need for change. The biggest challenge will be time to consider and mull things over. Small steps. Remember one little drip in a pond often creates huge waves.
Try it out with your children and you can tag us with your ideas on instagram or share your photos on our facebook!
I love art. I have always loved art. I am fascinated by any kind of art. I am puzzled by some modern ‘masterpieces’, an unmade bed, a mouldy sandwich but I guess it is in the eye of the beholder. What a boring world it would be if we all loved and appreciated the same creative outputs! 
I am lucky enough to visit the end of year shows at Glasgow School of Art whenever I can (my husband lectures on the product design course there). Every year I am amazed and transfixed by what the students produce. Their imaginations emptied into a space! Speaking to the students about their work gives great insight to their design process and the elements that inspire them. Curiosity is high on their utterings. Curiosity and creativity, now that’s something I know about! 

Children are curious creatures! They explore, question, and wonder, and by doing so, learn. From the moment of birth, we are drawn to new things. When we are curious about something new, we want to explore it, while exploring we discover! 
One way that children can discover things through curiosity is through art that allows them to think, respond to materials and create, bringing their wee ideas to perhaps a product or just the end of their thinking journey. Art experiences that allow children to explore, experiment and create has so many benefits to our children learning!  

Art is a way that children can express themselves; share what they see, how they feel, their wishes for the future or even what they want for lunch that day. Art is a therapeutic process and can be done in so many ways, so let’s explore:  

Concepts and Language 

Art activities can teach our children many different concepts. Think chemistry when we add powders to liquids to make compounds to model with or paint with. Alternatively, placing loose part items together in a symmetrical manner to create a butterfly or flower or tree may see them count, match, pair consider one to one correspondence, mathematical thinking gone wild, not to mention the language that goes along with these activities. 

 

Here are a few of the elements of art that we will see our children being exposed to. 
Line is a path created by a moving point, mark or object. It is a dot that takes a walk. Lines can be straight, swirly, wavy, jagged, dotted, dashed, broken, thick, thin, zig zag, diagonal, vertical, horizontal, curved, bold, parallel or perpendicular. 
Shape is a two-dimensional (2D), flat enclosed area. When a line crosses over itself, it creates a shape. Examples of shapes could be geometric, organic/natural, irregular, circle, square, rectangle, diamond, oval, crescent, heart, triangle, and octagon. 
Texture is used to describe either the way a three-dimensional work actually feels when touched, or the visual “feel” of a two-dimensional work. Texture is how something feels or looks like it would feel if you could touch it. It could be squishy, smooth, rough, course, thick, thin, slidy, slippery, soft, jaggy and so on. 
Colour is what is produced when light, striking an object, is reflected back to the eye. Colours have so many shades and tones, think of all the wonderful words we have for colours: ochre, chartreuse, eggshell, periwinkle, rust, amber, magenta, and turquoise, or charcoal. 

Movement and Techniques 

Lots of children enjoy making marks, drawing, and painting at tables or easels but let’s think about how we can move art into our other environments. What art could we create in the garden? In the kitchen? Maybe we could be standing, while we hold our paintbrush up and let it drip down to the floor. What if we move our whole bodies while we create, rather than just our arms and hands? There are so many ways to get creative and keep things interesting.  
Think about painting, for example, what can we use to paint? A brush of course but we can use it to flick, drag, splash, drip, and splat the pain on our canvas as well as using the brush directly on the paper. We could also use our hands, mark makers, things from the outdoors like a leaf to make prints and textures on the page.  
We could use paint, ink, water and food colouring, mashed up berries, mix coffee or hot chocolate with water, make up that’s going to be thrown out, as long as it’s all child safe of course.  

Activities 

Here are some wee ideas to get you started! 
Use some cinnamon sticks or scented candles to draw on sandpaper scraps.  
Use some lightly coloured water in spray bottles to squirt a rainbow on a window or fence outside and when it rains (or use a hosepipe) watch the colours merge together and change. 
Do some weaving on a bush outside or the branch of a broken down tree you find in the park. Offer ribbons, strings, yarn, felt strips, scarfs, strips of old material. 
Create a structure from lots of empty food packages, milk cartons, chocolate tins, and cardboard tubes. How will they balance, stay upright. How will we attach them? Lots of critical thinking to be engaged in. 

Get busy, be creative, and celebrate art!
Try it out with your children and you can tag us with your ideas on how to learn and play at home on instagram or share your photos on our facebook!
In Early years, we never seem to be finished talking about sensorial play, multi-sensory experiences, and environments for the senses! When you hear, or even use these phrases, you probably don’t stop to think about why we use them.  Well, it’s because of the importance of our senses. They are the five doors into our brain.  When one of those doors opens, thinking happens. We are all about providing opportunities for our children to think.
Without us even knowing, our sense organs (nose, eyes, ears, tongue, and skin) are taking in information and sending it to the brain for processing. If we didn’t have them, we would not be able to smell, see, hear, taste, or touch anything! What a boring life that would be!
Think of a scene from your life, something that makes you happy. Really, think about it. Consider the sounds, sights and smells you are surrounded by. What are you doing? Who are you with? Something as simple as standing in a field on a warm day, or beside the sea on a windy day stimulates your senses. You can feel the warmth of the sun or the wind on your cheeks; you can smell the sea breeze and taste the salt on your lips.
It is suggested that sensory stimulation encourages endorphins – happy, “feel good” chemicals in the brain. These chemicals can become addictive, causing the individual to repeat the activity in order to renew the good feeling.

 

Senses in Young Children

We now know that even before birth children learn about the world by tasting, touching, smelling, listening, looking and moving around. In fact, children best develop their senses by actively participating in the world.  Babies wiggle their fingers. Toddlers repeat singsong words. Through each of these activities, children learn to process sensory input and they discover how their bodies move through space. Young children become absorbed in using and understanding their senses. They are inquisitive and open to any appropriate challenges to explore and learn.
 

Senses in our Playrooms

Sometimes in our busy playrooms, we forget to consider the way our children’s senses are being stimulated. Remember the senses are the doors to opening our brains so thinking and engagement can happen.
Take time now to think about your spaces. Think about… an experience you share with the children. How many senses were engaged? Was it overstimulating for the children? Did you notice any child avoiding using any of their senses? Why might that be?

Think of the resources they like to play with or their favourite place in the playroom. How can you make it more sensorial for them?
Have a think about one or two of your learning zones…what materials and resources can children choose? Do you zones promote and stimulate just one sense or lots?
Here are some wee activities to encourage multi-sensory play:

In the Water

Why not grate some bars of zesty soap into the water play. This changes the aroma and smell of the water, it changes the look, it becomes cloudy almost and of course, you can feel the texture change at the beginning and then as the temperature of the hands melt the soap and it dissolves the texture change disappears.  The children have just been involved in science. Cause and effect, change, compounds. Talk about it while it happens.

Block-tastic!

 Take five pieces of each construction set you have. It could be wooden blocks, Duplo, pop oids, stickle bricks. Add in some sponges, a few sanding blocks and some Velcro rollers. Place a selection of sticky tape, sticky tack, string and wool. Sit alongside the children and suggest you each or together try to build something. Encourage them to plan and think about it before getting started. Then let them design, construct, deconstruct, modify and create! Sit back and consider the sensorial doors into their brains that are open for the thinking to take place.

 

Try it out with your children and you can tag us with your ideas on how to learn and play at home on instagram or share your photos on our facebook!